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I looked up to drug dealers and footballers when I grew up – Deeney

Watford skipper Troy Deeney has admitted drug dealers and footballers were the people youngsters looked up to when he was growing up in Birmingham.

The 30-year-old, whose father spent much of his son’s childhood in jail, was born and raised in a tough environment and served time behind bars himself after being caught up in a street brawl.

Deeney emerged as a changed man and has since prospered both on and off the pitch, where he has established a foundation to help children with learning disabilities and life-limiting illnesses.

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But in a candid interview on BBC 5 Live’s Sportsweek show, in which he discussed a range of issues including the current knife crime epidemic, he spoke about the problems some youngsters face.

Asked if money was important to him, Deeney replied: “No. It was, it was at one stage. I’m not going to lie, it was at one stage because where I grew up, we only looked up to the footballers or the drug dealers, that’s all we knew.”

Asked further if he would genuinely have looked up to drug dealers, he elaborated.

He said: “Of course I would. I’ve never hid. I don’t know if you know my back-story – I didn’t grow up in a middle-class household. Everybody would have.

“You look up to what you can see and what I could see was that. The drug dealers had the nice cars, they had the nice trainers, they had the clothes, and the footballers that were from my area did all of that and moved out of my area.

“It’s not a case that I looked up to the drug dealer and thought, ‘I aspire to be that’ – I’ve never touched drugs in my life, so it’s not been a case of looking up to it.

“I’m just saying from the perspective of a youngster looking up, that’s what I wanted to do.

Cardiff City v Watford – Premier League – Cardiff City Stadium

Playing football has brought Deeney fame and fortune but he says money means nothing to him. (Simon Galloway/PA))

“I always had this impression that money bought you happiness and money solved everything, and it’s the biggest lie I have ever been told.”

Deeney cited the role of social media as an aggravating factor in knife crime but insisted the solution lies within homes and communities.

He said: “I would like it that nobody ever walked around with weapons and we never had to fight but I’m a realist at the same time and I understand that while it’s a growing issue, while it’s a growing problem, it needs to start within the house.

“It needs to start within communities, getting hold of our own kids and making sure that they understand the consequences.”